Maintainers' ingenuity saves Air Force money, time

  • Published
  • By William C. Pope
  • 439th Airlift Wing
Nowhere in the 439th Airlift Wing’s mission statement does it say anything about Yankee ingenuity, but it should, because when the Westover maintainers need a part for a C-5, they make it themselves.

The “knuckle busters” of the 439th Maintenance Squadron found out they needed an elevator support bracket as soon as possible for the C-5 aircraft 69-0020, the oldest C-5A in the Air Force fleet that’s still flying. To make it mission capable, they made the large bracket from an even larger block of aluminum, saving the Air Force time and tens of thousands of dollars.

Gary Surozenski, a metal technician at the Regional Isochronal Inspection hangar, served as the lead machinist on the project, with assistance from machinists Tech. Sgt. Richard Towlson and Master Sgt. John Vescovi who helped input the design and information into the computer-assisted drawing program.

“This type of repair, in the tech data, is listed as ‘depot repairable only,’ so we had to lobby depot at Warner-Robins AFB, Georgia for approval,” said Lt. Col. Jordan Murphy, commander of the 439th Maintenance Squadron. “The whole project had to be created from scratch, and it shows our ability for unique manufacturing like this.”

They received depot approval to manufacture the part on Sept. 26. It took five days to complete, with a material cost of $1,500, compared to what would have been a month turnaround and cost of $50,000 if ordered through an outside source.

The part started as a 100 pound aluminum slab in the machine shop. Using Surozenksi’s CAD data, a milling machine, and the skills of Towlson, the process began.

“Most of the hands-on-work was done here in the machine shop,” Towlson said. “With the setup of the milling machine and the hand-operated machining, there’s a lot of back and forth between the blue-print, machining, and measuring to make sure the tolerances are correct.”

The meticulous machining work done by Towlson’s shop was exacting, and before being installed on the aircraft, the six pound part needed to undergo a non-destructive inspection.

“We want to make sure there are no defects or cracks in the metal,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Pitts, NCO in charge of NDI. “It takes about an hour for the inspection using a chemical process to expose any problems.”

Once the part clears NDI it will be given to the Sheet Metal Shop, where they will drill holes in it and install it on the aircraft, making it the oldest C-5 with the newest Westover-made part.